Tuesday, October 27, 2009

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: Iran regime issues confidential gag order to press on eve of November 4 mass protests

The Iranian regime has sent a warning to the country's press to censor their coverage of mass protests planned by the Green Movement on November 4, according to a confidential letter published by opposition web site Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi. (A translation of the complete letter is available at the end of this article.)

November 4 is the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, and for thirty years the Islamic regime has celebrated the date with demonstrations against what it calls 'world arrogance,' a catchphrase which usually denotes America.

But this year's events are attracting unwanted guests as the opposition movement has announced plans to exploit the official ceremonies to organize its own protests around the country. The tactic has proven successful on two prior occasions, Tehran Friday Prayers in July and Ghods Day in September.

In a letter stamped 'urgent' and 'top secret,' Deputy Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Alireza Malekian warned against steps taken by 'groups opposed to the regime' which may 'deviate public opinion from the ceremonies on the national day of struggle against world arrogance.' The missive was dated October 22 and addressed to the directors of national newspapers, news services, and web sites.

Malekian, who is in charge of press and information affairs, called on the media outlets to not publish 'any news, photos, or topics' which may provoke tension or breach public order.

Malekian spent much of the 1980s as a student leader at the University of Medical Sciences. He did not advance beyond an undergraduate degree since his energies appear to have been focused on his role as a political commissar and mobilizer of the student jihad for the Iran-Iraq War. He came late to the world of journalism, having first been rewarded with the position of deputy head of the University of Medical Sciences, before transferring to the conservative Keyhan daily as deputy editor. Keyhan is directly controlled by the office of Leader Ali Khamenei.

Malekian stressed that his letter was classified and should be safeguarded as such. At least one of his correspondents failed to heed his orders.

The following is a translation of the letter:

Islamic Republic of Iran
Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance
Deputy Minister for Press and Dissemination of Information Affairs

[stamped] Urgent
[stamped] Top Secret

To all honorable directors of newspapers
honorable general managers of domestic news services
Internet web sites.

With greetings,

Given the possibility that groups opposed to the regime may engage in actions on the eve of November 4, the anniversary of the seizure of America's den of spies, and may deviate public opinion from the ceremonies on the national day of struggle against world arrogance, and given that some domestic political factions, in continuation of the post-presidential election issues, possibly intend to politically exploit the situation and disrupt the peace, following up on past correspondence and stressing that the outcome of the tenth presidential election has been confirmed by official and legal authorities, I request that you refrain from disseminating any news, photo, or topic which can lead to tension in the society or breach public order.

With the assurance that this letter belongs in the category of classified documents and correspondence, please apply the proper attention to safeguarding it.

Alireza Malekian
Deputy Minister

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